An old joke marks the difference between camping and surviving in the wilderness as how often you are doing things you really don’t want to do.
When you are camping, it’s a recreational activity. If you’re surviving, necessity will be the only driver of your every action. This certainly includes what is on the menu if you don’t want to starve to death.
Face it, you’ll have to eat things that you don’t want to eat, including some that are downright disgusting.
Much of the time, this means that insects are definitely on the menu. They’re a lot easier to catch than mammals, that’s for sure. So, how about locusts? Can you eat locusts in a survival situation?
Yes, you can eat most locusts in a survival situation. These large and sturdy insects are an excellent source of protein, but they must be prepared properly for safety. Take care that you don’t source locusts from areas undergoing pesticide application.
I know that the notion of eating any insect (and especially one as large and beefy as a locust) is enough to make your average person nauseous.
However, you should know that people around the world have historically eaten locusts for ages, and the practice continues right to this very day.
Believe it or not, they can actually be pretty tasty when cooked properly with a little bit of seasoning. Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know about eating locusts in a survival scenario.
Is a Locust Different than a Grasshopper?
Locust, grasshoppers, what’s the difference? Well, there are differences, but there are even more similarities. In fact, the word locust is loosely derived from a Latin word that means “grasshopper”, hence the name we use for many insects in this family.
Specifically, locusts are a group of various species of particular grasshoppers that all have a swarming phase. This means that these insects, while typically living life alone, will spontaneously become social and travel in massive groups.
These swarms have historically been immensely destructive, and as you probably know they are even talked about in the Bible.
And that’s really all there is to it. If you’re dealing with a grasshopper species that will, under the right circumstances, swarm then it is a locust. If you aren’t, it’s just a common grasshopper.
Otherwise there is no real distinction, and practically for our purposes it does not make any difference. So you can substitute the word grasshopper if you prefer throughout this article.
Where are Locusts Found?
Locusts are found very literally all over the world, on every single continent, except Antarctica and technically North America.
North America does not have any native locust species although there are plenty of grasshoppers.
There are more species in a wider distribution in some parts of the world, namely throughout the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia, but these insects can be found everywhere.
This is bad news if they multiply and reach levels that can be categorized as a proper plague- they are going to wipe out crops and all other vegetation in the path of the swarm- but that’s good news if you find yourself in the middle of a survival situation.
You’ll know now that pretty much wherever you happen to be there is at least a decent chance that you can locate these sizable and highly nutritious insects for food.
However, though they are broadly safe and good eating not all species are suitable for human consumption. More on that next.
Caution: Some Locusts and Grasshoppers are Toxic
Before you go rounding up locusts willy-nilly, know that some grasshopper species and ergo some locust species are toxic.
Most of them are not seriously poisonous, but they do contain chemicals used defensively to keep them from being eaten by predators. These insects usually have a repulsive taste or else can cause a serious indigestion in mammals.
However, a few grasshoppers like the Foam Grasshopper from South Africa are ferociously toxic and may kill you if eaten.
This is especially of concern when considering locusts for food because these are sizable insects, and they can contain a lot of poison.
You need to make it a point to learn which species in your area are safe to eat, and familiarize yourself the morphological changes that they undergo when transitioning from their solitary to gregarious phase…
Most grasshoppers change color radically when they become locusts, with the most common color change being from green or brown to a striped and highly contrasting yellow-over-dark brown, sometimes with white or cream color markings.
As you probably already know, bright aposematic coloring in nature typically warns of toxicity but this is not always the case with locusts. And in this regard, nothing beats expert knowledge of the species you are dealing with.
Locust Nutritional Info
Locusts are, quite surprisingly, extremely nutritious. I guess they better be since they typically eat the crops and plants that we and our livestock are supposed to eat!
All jokes aside, a large locust is absolutely packed with protein and also accompanying fats and carbohydrates.
This makes them ideal for furnishing you with both short-term and long-term energy, and you should also know that a typical locust contains nearly as much protein by weight as beef!
Locusts also contain abundant minerals and vitamins, with the B complex vitamins being particularly prevalent and calcium and iron being stand-out minerals.
This should not be underestimated: although the focus is usually on bulk calories for short-term survival scenarios, getting adequate micronutrients is critical for sustained energy and well-being in a long-term situation.
At any rate, locusts are sizable insects and very filling, so it won’t take too many to make a properly decent meal.
How do Locusts Taste?
The taste of locust is hard to describe to those who haven’t tried it. Raw, they are squishy, crunchy, flaky, and pretty disgusting.
Prepared and cooked correctly, however, they have a nutty and savory flavor. It is well suited to be seasoned and prepared in various ways.
Indeed, many cultures around the world have mastered using locusts in various dishes and flavoring them in various ways. If you know what you are doing and you have a few seasonings, you might end up enjoying locust more than you think!
Should You Eat Locusts Alive?
No! Not if you can avoid it. First and foremost, a live locust is going to taste absolutely disgusting and the experience of eating it will be revolting. These are large and powerful insects, and they will very literally go down-kicking.
That raises other problems, because those powerful legs, tarsal claws, and sharp spines can seriously injure your tongue, gums, and other tissues in your mouth.
Also, locusts can be host to germs and parasites that can make you seriously sick if not cooked.
Can You Eat Locusts Raw?
You can, but you really shouldn’t. killing the locust before pulling off the dangerous bits we’ll make eating it easier and safer, but it’s still going to be pretty damn gross and you’ll run the risk of infection from germs or parasites as mentioned above.
How Should You Prepare Them?
Preparing a locust for eating is a lot like preparing any other insect that is similar: you want to remove the head or at least the antenna, pinch off the legs and remove the wings along with their covers.
That will get rid of most of the parts that are either dangerous to eat or the ones that just taste really bad or have a nasty texture.
After that, all you need to do is cook them up. You can cook locusts in all sorts of ways. They come out great when they are pan-fried, deep-fried, roasted, or rotisseried on a spit.
Also, if you have any seasonings or other ingredients now is the time to use them: they turn out surprisingly tasty with some seasoning and proper cooking!
Are there Health or Other Risks to Know About When Eating Locusts?
The biggest health concern when eating locusts is the fact they might be contaminated by dangerous pesticides.
Since locusts are such a massive problem worldwide when it comes to the destruction of crops, governments and private interests spare no expense when it comes to dispersing or destroying swarms.
They’ve gotten pretty good at it, too, which means you need to be very careful when eating wild-caught locusts.
Another concern, though not a major one in the short term, is the ingestion of chitin. Chitin is what makes up an insect’s hard exoskeleton, and this stuff is basically completely indigestible.
Worse, it can block the uptake of other nutrients that you need. But, as I said, it’s not a major problem in the short term, but more research definitely needs to be done regarding the regular or ongoing ingestion of chitin in humans.
Just keep that in mind if you are depending on locusts as a source of food for the long haul.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.